Jim Forte Postal History

(800) 594-3837 or (702) 791-6828 Fax (702) 369-9139
P.O. Box 94822 Las Vegas, NV 89193


Find More Information About a Post Office

I am often asked "I want to learn everything there is to know about the _ _ _ _ _ post office". When I hear this I wonder what people expect to find. There is always more information available about any post office, but I suspect that those who ask the question will be disappointed. At any rate, this is the information that is available:

My site offers the official name of the post office, the county where the office was located and the year the office was established and if the office was discontinued the year it was discontinued. Please click here to start the search.

For most states, there is a book that offers some more detailed information. In general, you can find the date, month and year an office was opened and if the office was discontinued the date, month and year it was discontinued. Many of these books also contain the name of the first postmaster. A very few list the name of every postmaster. Some books will include maps with the approximate location of the post office. Some books contain the origin of the name of the post office. To find these books, click to this page and select the name of the state where the office is located. A bibliography of books is on each state page. Some of these can be purchased. The others will require you find them in a library. There are several specialized philatelic libraries many of which are noted here. Some of these require paid membership. You can also visit your local library and ask them to get the book for you on interlibrary loan.

The primary source for the dates of operation of post offices is Record of Appointment of Postmasters , 1832 - September 30, 1971 and Record of Appointment of Postmasters, Oct. 1789-1832. These are available on Microfilm from the National Archives. Click here for the details. You will find instructions on how to best use this resource on the National Archives site. The rolls of film are available for purchase. While they are not expensive, they will require a microfilm reader. Your local library may be able to order the film on interlibrary loan and they will most likely have a microfilm reader.

There is a good deal of information about post offices that was published in the U.S. Postal Bulletins. These cover the years from 1880 to 1972. There are notices of a post office's establshment and discontinuation. There are notices of changes of postmaster. There are notices of changes in mail routes. There is some information about changes of location. There is a wide variety of information that was deemed to be important to a postmaster and post office employee. These are now online here.

If can be surprising difficult to find the location of a post office. The National Archives has Post Office Department Records of Site Locations, 1837-1950. In most cases the location is given in relative terms to what the first postmaster thought was important. You will rarely get a street address, especially on the 19th century. I have never heard of someone who is not disappointed by the information on these reports. For the details, please click here. Also for these you can buy the film or try to get help from a librarian

The National Archives has a range of other post office records available. Most is very specialized and unlikely to help with most inquires. Please click here for more information.

The Official Register is a publication that was required by Congress to list all U.S. employees and their salaries. It started in 1816 and ended in 1959. From 1879 to 1911 a separate volume was published about the post office. Most U.S. post offices in this period, as well as both before and after are fourth class offices. These means that the postmaster of these offices were paid on commission. They received a percentage of amount the stamps sold and the amount of stamp cancelled. The Official Register published this amount so you can get a good idea of the mount of business at that post office. You can find the nearest location of these books here. You can also seek assistance at your nearest library.

Post office get their names from a wide variety of sources. The general guidelines are noted here. There are many books that have been published with titles like Place Names of _ _ _ _ _ . These are not specifically about post offices, but many post office names and place names overlap. They are often written by state historical societies and published by state university presses. I do not know of a comprehensive lust, but you should be able to find these in the Library of Congress online search here.

You should also consider consulting the archive of the local newspaper in the area of the post office. Most of these will have notices about nearby offices. In general the information you find will the kind of information that is available from the sources listed here, such as openings, changes of postmaster and closings. There is sometimes location information that is included which will be more helpful than the official sources. Consult with the local newspaper or contact a nearby library.

In some cases, for some post offices, there is more information that has been published somewhere. There is no way to know for what post offices this information exists or where it exists. This could be a couple of paragraphs in a book, part of magazine article, some other type of paper ephemera, some other place that you might imagine or in some other place that you could never imagine. I can't help you find anything beyond what I have detailed here. Finding more is pure serendipity.

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